04/17/2007 – Daily News Record
Written By Dustin Dopirak HARRISONBURG — Because Andrew Franco has never actually lived in Harrisonburg, he can’t exactly call the summer he’ll spend playing for the Turks a homecoming, but it will have all the makings of one. He’ll be living with his mother and stepfather and spending the majority of every day with his best friend from childhood. He’ll just be doing it 15 hours from where he grew up. Franco, a junior catcher at Appalachian State, is the stepson of Broadway High School football coach Frank Sorrells, who moved back to Virginia to coach at his alma mater last fall after 37 years of coaching in Florida. Sorrells played high school football with Turks owner/manager Bob Wease, and that connection helped Franco get a roster spot on the Valley League team. With about a month and a half to go before the VBL season begins on June 1, the roster is now mostly complete. "We were talking last summer when he first came up here," Wease said of Sorrells. "He told me his stepson played college baseball, so I said, ‘Tell me about him.’ I found out he’s a pretty doggone good player, so I called his coach." Indeed, by getting Franco, Wease picked up the Mountaineers’ best hitter. He’s second among ASU regulars in batting average, hitting .359, and he leads the team in home runs (7) and RBIs (39). And as a bonus, Wease also got junior infielder Brett Stewart, Franco’s best friend since age 10. They not only played together in high school, but at Tallahassee Community College in their first two years of college before moving on to App State. Stewart had surgery for a heart condition earlier this year, forcing him to miss the season, but he will be healthy in time for summer ball. Both Franco and Stewart, Appalachian assistant Matt Boykin said, should be valuable additions to the Turks. "Andrew’s a very hard worker and he’s swinging the bat well for us," Boykin said. "And even though Brett’s been out, he’s a real solid player when he’s in there, and they’re both the type that you have to kick them out of the batting cage." Franco’s and Stewart’s living situation will be significantly different than that of most of their teammates, many of whom will be a long way from home. Only five of the 29 players on the roster are from a state further east than Indiana and 15 are from states west of the Mississippi River. Those two, however, will live with Sorrells and Franco’s mother, Paula Sorrells, in the couple’s home in Timberville. Though they may not get summer jobs, Franco’s mother said, that doesn’t mean they won’t be working. "We’ve got a 100-year-old house up here," Paula said. "So when they’re not playing ball, they’re going to be helping us work on that. Joked Frank: "There’s not going to be any free lunches here." Franco said that’s just fine with him. "I not only get to play for a great team in the summer, but I get to live with my mom," he said. "So that’s going to be cool." A few familiar names dot the roster, including two returnees from Oklahoma City University. Junior shortstop Bobby Spain is back after leading the Turks in batting average (.348) while compiling three home runs and 24 RBIs. At OCU, an NAIA school, he’s hitting .427 with 15 home runs and 58 RBIs this spring. Teammate David Dennis, a junior first baseman, is also back after hitting .299 with three home runs and 27 RBIs last year. He’s batting .373 with nine homers and 43 RBIs at Oklahoma City. "I had the time of my life last summer," Dennis said. "I had options to go other places, and I could’ve even stayed home and played, but I had way too much fun last year. I loved all the fans and I loved playing for [Wease], so I just wanted to do that one more time." Dennis and Spain will be joined by Oklahoma City teammates Landon Camp (sophomore infielder), Patrick Norris (junior outfielder) and Tyler Kelsey (junior left-handed pitcher.). Wease also went back to several other long-time pipelines. He has two players from the University of Arizona — sophomore second baseman Travis Peep and junior first baseman Cris Tapia — and two from Southern Illinois in right-handed pitchers Tyler Choote and Ian Rhinehart. He also has three from the University of San Francisco in right-handers Alex Kalogrides and Chase Tigert and junior outfielder Drew Johnson, and two from Arizona’s Yavapai Junior College in pitchers Gary Gattis and Kris Vanzant. Rounding out the pitching staff are Ryan Ellison and Tim Wheeler from Troy, Chris Chapman from Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, James Kennedy from Rider, Andrew Porter from Iowa and Chase Sonen from St. Joseph College in Illinois. Freshman Michael Perich from St. Joseph’s will battle Franco for time behind the plate. Along with Camp, Dennis, Peep, Spain, Stewart and Tapia, Sterling College junior Joshua Weinberg and Clarendon College sophomore B.J. Wheeler will battle for time in the infield. Joining Norris and Johnson in the outfield will be Iowa freshman Justin Brauer, Purdue sophomore Jonathan Moore and New Orleans sophomore Tyrone Weathers. "I haven’t seen most of these guys yet, but I think we have a really good team," Wease said. "We’ve got a good combination of speed and power."